Conventional farming usually gets a bad climate rap. That’s because, in one way or another, food production accounts for up to a third of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Some seep directly from agricultural soils, but others stem from transportation, farm machinery, and the substantial carbon footprints of synthetic fertilizers and other inputs. These indirect emissions add to the environmental impacts of staple crops like corn and wheat, oft-vilified grains that feed much of the world’s population.
But a new paper, published today in the journal Nature Communications, offers a slice of good news. The study found that a combination of a few basic farming practices boosted wheat production and put heaps of carbon back into the soil–more than enough to compensate for the GHGs emitted in the process of growing it. Read more
Good food advocates have long argued that what’s best for your health is also best for the planet, but new science now backs up the claim. A paper published today in the journal Nature by scientists at the University of Minnesota, presents hard numbers that suggest eating less meat, less refined fat, and less sugar will also reduce the climate change impacts of food production.
Using about 50 years’ worth of data from the world’s 100 most populous countries, UM Professor of Ecology G. David Tilman and graduate student Michael Clark show how current diet trends are contributing, not only to diet-related illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease, but also to dangerously increasing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). Read more
In the quest to shave off distance from field to plate, today’s chefs and restaurants have devised a range of creative solutions–from growing tomatoes on their own rooftops to sourcing fruit from their customers’ backyards.
The Perennial, a soon-to-open San Francisco eatery, plans to take the business of local sourcing several steps further. Many of the greens and herbs the restaurant serves will be grown in a closed-loop aquaponic system based across the Bay in Oakland. And when chef Chris Kiyuna wants to serve say, some sorrel or sprigs of purple basil, he’ll be able to harvest them from the “living pantry”–an area of the restaurant where the greens will float until just moments before they’re served. Read more
Genetically engineered (GE) seeds are often sold to farmers and the public on the grounds that they are the wave of the future, taking over where conventional plant breeding left off by improving productivity and sustainability. But that might be changing. Read more
At Nopalito, if the local corn runs out, you might as well shut the doors. It’s typical for the restaurant’s two San Francisco locations to go through 200 pounds of California-grown organic masa in a single day. The grain is at the menu’s core, used in everything from tamales, to tortillas, to house-made chips. Read more
Ricardo Sangüesa, a small avocado farmer, is staring out over a dry, cracked landscape. But he’s not in California; he’s in the Ligua Valley, in central Chile. Stray dogs wander through the empty Ligua riverbed, which is littered with trash. The only green he can see are the avocado trees, which grow in green squares that form a peculiar patchwork along the sides of the valley. According to Sangüesa, the river has been drained to feed the trees.
“Because they’re overexploiting the water by throwing it at the hills, the river has dried up,” he explains. “It’s as if someone used a paper towel to suck up the river.” Read more
From the United Nations Climate Summit to the People’s Climate March and the accompanying Flood Wall Street action, all eyes have been on the climate this week.
Amidst heated discussions of global policy change, greenhouse gases, and emissions caps, food and farming–and the impact they are having on our changing climate—were also in the spotlight. After all, agriculture is one of largest contributors of human-caused emissions. Read more
Today, hundreds of thousands of people around the world will take to the streets to fight for our lives. People’s Climate Marches are being organized in dozens of U.S. cities and a whopping 158 countries, from Burundi to Brazil to Nepal. Marchers are demanding international leaders to commit to serious emissions reductions and polluting industries to clean up their practices. Climate-impacted communities–from Hurricane Sandy survivors in New York City to indigenous peoples displaced by rainforest destruction in South America–will put a face on the urgency of this call to action. Read more
Oysters are big business. That might not be immediately apparent on a visit to Hog Island Oyster Company in Northern California’s bucolic Tomales Bay, where the place still has a seafood shack sensibility. The farm was started more than 30 years ago by two marine biologists who borrowed $500 from parents and a boat from neighbors and began cultivating briny bivalves in five-acres of intertidal waters.
As a small seafood business and sustainable farm, Hog Island has weathered its share of hardships, including significant oyster seed shortages and the threat of species extinction, courtesy of environmental challenges.
It has stayed afloat, though. In fact, three decades on, Hog Island has quite the cult following around the country and it has earned respect as a leader in the shellfish industry. These days, founders John Finger and Terry Sawyer preside over a $12 million operation that employs almost 200, farms 160 acres, and harvests over 3.5 million oysters, clams, and mussels every year. Read more
In the summer of 1970, a group of friends followed an old stagecoach road into the woods of California’s Gold Country. They were hunting for mining relics and pioneer oddities hidden in the forest, but what they found was even more rare: antique fruit trees.
There, perched 5,000 feet in the Sierras, was a thriving fruit orchard, branches heavy with rare varieties of apples, plums, cherries, and pears. Without pruning or pesticides, the trees had been alive since the Gold Rush—a far cry from the commercial fruit trees of today, which last fewer than 35 years. Read more